The Young Wife Review: Tayarisha Poe directs Kiersey Clemons

SXSW: A woman played by Kiersey Clemons struggles to find balance on a chaotic “non-wedding” day in this triple ensemble dramedy.

In slow-motion panic attack form, “The Young Wife” revolves around the hopes and doubts of a young woman (a radiant Kiersey Clemons) on her “non-wedding” day. It’s not the moment of marriage, nor is it an engagement ceremony, but a day-long party, a celebration of the love of Celestina and her belated boyfriend River (Leon Bridges). Set 10 years in the future, imbued with an indescribably otherworldly glow, you almost feel as if you have been planted on another planet. “The Young Wife” is a heady soup of wedding band dramedy, with barbs galore. characters and admirable visuals.

The director is Tayarisha Poe, who made waves at Sundance in 2019 with her confidently directed debut “Selah and the Spades,” a deftly choreographed ensemble piece about underground cliques at a fictional boarding school. Here in “The Young Wife,” Poe appears to be portraying the beginnings of a mixed-race family, with a band featuring “Dope” breakout Clemons and singer-songwriter Bridges, Kelly Marie Tran, Michaela Watkins- with you, Aya Cash. , Sandy Honig, Brandon Micheal Hall, Lukita Maxwell, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Judith Light, Aida Osman, Connor Paolo, Jon Rudnitsky, and Lovie Simone, playing all sorts of personalities. It was clearly a joyous experience for the cast – even if it may be difficult for audiences to find ballast amid the film’s volatile, ever-changing world and cast.

In fact, it’s the type that, if it were a book, would require a family tree, which Poe presents in a kind of fun tableau, showing the players suspended in a ritual dance sequence in the film’s opening. It evokes the opening of Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia,” the first half of which seems to have influenced Poe, as another hectic wedding day, when a bride (or, in the case of “The Young Wife,” the bride’s neighbor) collapses in a cascading series of crises.

Memorably standing out from the pack is a delightfully unsmiling Sheryl Lee as Ralph’s domineering mother Celestina, skeptical of her daughter’s relationship with River; River’s scatterbrained mother is played by the always nice to see Michaela Watkins; Aya Cash as River’s insufferable biker mouth sister; and stealing the show, Judith Light as Celestina’s mother-in-law-to-be, an alcoholic who sees through everyone’s days and journeys and the insignificance of her role as a “wife.” Great line? When Watkins’ character tells him to stop drinking vodka at noon, he spits out, “That’s potatoes! It’s lunch.”

Celestina, meanwhile, was overcome with regret for seemingly blowing up her close group of friends for reasons that were initially beyond the reach of the audience. He’s also recently quit his job as a dead-end corporate lackey – perhaps in an over-stylized flashback, with Celestina’s resignation letter on screen as he looks to dismantle his office – although he seems to have a shot at getting it. work again. Meanwhile, how committed he is there is River for him? And how willing she is to give up herself in order to make her female autonomy “we”.

Writer-director Poe’s particular choice for the film’s future location, and it works in a strange way: Why not set an otherwise mundane dramedy in a utopian and not-so-distant realm? There’s no sci-fi premise here, though Rocio Gimenez’s production and Laura Cristina Ortiz’s costumes suggest something just a little out of this world: Everyone has eye-catching pastels, elaborate jewelry, and otherwise good-looking clothes. well, strange. Poe said she began writing the film in 2019, questioning how becoming a wife means being tied to other people’s expectations and labels. Then the pandemic hit, and rituals like weddings and funerals began to take place on screens. Of course, the mood has changed, and so “The Young Wife” is a movie where the vibe is just slightly imperceptibly off the rails.

Coming not only from ‘Dope’, but from ‘Antebellum’ and even the recent discovery of ‘Somebody I Used To Know’, Clemons is a ray of warmth and wonder, a clear center of gravity amongst the ever-shuffling crowd, even when even if one’s own place in the universe is not so stuck. “The Young Wife” can be a chaotic experience, but Poe has the skills to carry us through the noise and into the future.

grade: B

“The Young Wife” premiered at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival. It is currently distributed in the United States.

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